Friday, September 30, 2011

When You're Right, You're Right

The Atlantic nails the problems with Moneyball straight on the head.

But like they say in the article, when there is the fact and the legend, print the legend. Still a great movie.

PS - I like the little detail the writer points out -
"In the 26 seasons before Beane became general manager of the A's in 1998, Oakland was the biggest winner in baseball, with six pennants and four World Series victories. The Yankees, by comparison, won five pennants and three World Series over that span."
The dirty little secret about the small market A's organization is that it's won more world series than everyone but the Yankees and the Cardinals. (They won some in Philly and KC).

What Does Obama Think?

I wonder what Obama thinks of the economy and the state of his Presidency. I wonder if he believes his ideas are not working or whether they just need more time. I wonder if he thinks the Republicans are holding up all the things that need to happen in order to get the economy back on track. I wonder if he still blames George Bush for the gigantic mess. Or maybe he wonders if he is doing something wrong...
Baseball Playoff Time

Once upon at time, there was no doubt, October was the best sports time of the year. Baseball playoffs. NFL underway. Nothing could beat it. Also used to be...or at least felt like...the bay area had something going on. For years it seemed like the A's or the Giant's had something going on during the postseason - at least for large parts of my youth. And at the very least, the 49ers could always be relied upon to be good. No more. Besides the amazing Giant's run of last year and the 2004 A's playoff team, there hasn't been much to celebrate in Bay Area sports since I moved to LA. Nevertheless, playoff baseball is another beast all together and I'll watch any teams play. Even the other night, I watched basically the entire Braves meltdown game where Tim Hudson went out and gave his boys a great chance to win, but they just didn't have it in them. Their meltdown story would have been bigger if it weren't for the Red Sox and Tampa Bay storyline.

I don't follow too much baseball during the year...I mostly just read about it. And I like it that way. So my predictions should be noted as foolish, and they are more wishes than predictions, but here we go:

In the AL, I'm rooting for anyone but the Yankees to go forward. I like the Tiger's chances against them because once the Yanks pitch CC, they have no other proven playoff pitcher at their disposal. I know they have a great line up that can wear down teams and keep them in any game, but I'm guessing Verlander can beat them twice and the Tiger's can eek out one other game against a shitty Yankee pitcher.

I'll find it hard to root against the Devil Rays or the Rangers. I don't know any of these Ranger's pitchers, but I have to admit to kind of liking their team. Some folks say they are better than last year, but that makes no sense to me after losing essentially the best pitcher in baseball. It's a toss up - do you take the hot team or the talented team? Smart money is on the talent (Rangers), but last year everyone lost money betting on the talent.

In the NL, I'm rooting for the Brewers and don't see why they can't pull it off. I believe they have two good starting pitchers and two of the best bats in the league. Also, this is their window as they'll lose Fielder next year, and I like rooting for teams with a limited window. I know the Phillies are an obvious choice. They will likely win because they have to feel like the favored team in every single game they play because of their pitching match ups. Even last year, when the Giant's had an excellent rotation, the Phillies were without Lee, they still had good match ups. And no one this year in the National League can match the Giant's rotation of last year. So we'll see. No one is talking about the Diamondbacks, which may be good for them and they can sneak under the radar. But I like Milwaukee for some reason. I feel like they could pull off an upset here.

Wow. We just killed Anwar Al-Awlaki. I believe he was considered the most dangerous Al Queda guy left.

The one bright spot on Obama's record seems to be his record of killing the AQ leadership. Wouldn't have really expected that.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


No more wise elders. I can think of a few, but no one is asking for their opinion.
The Red Sox Meltdown

Couldn't happen to a better set of fans.

From where I sit, Boston fans are like the fat unpopular dude who you grew up with your entire life and basically got along with and liked. Then, suddenly, Senior year in high school, he starts smoking weed, dressing better, and gets a fake id. Maybe even gets laid. You feel good for the guy. Then, all of sudden, guy you liked, always sort of pitied turns into egomaniacal bastard who won't return your calls and parties only with the "coolest" kids. These are the Boston Red Sox fans. The "Bastan" fans. Those fatass pot-smoking tubs of lard. They deserve this season. And many more like it.
Oh My God

Have they cured AIDS?

HIV MVA-B VACCINE MAY REDUCE VIRUS TO ‘MINOR CHRONIC INFECTION’: Spanish scientists at the National Biotech Centre in Madrid say a new vaccine could reduce HIV to a “minor chronic infection.” The researchers report that 90% of participants given the MVA-B vaccine showed an immune response to the virus and 85% kept the immunity a year later. The success of this vaccine, CSIC’s patent, is based on the capability of human’s immune system to learn how to react over time against virus particles and infected cells. “MVA-B vaccine has proven to be as powerful as any other vaccine currently being studied, or even more,” says Mariano Esteban, head researcher. MVA-B is an attenuated virus, which has already been used in the past to eradicate smallpox, and also as a model in the research of many other vaccines. The “B” stands for the HIV subtype it is meant to work against, the most common in Europe.

Charging Us To Spend Our Money

Jeez. I thought these financial guys were all geniuses and this is the best way they can come up with to make some dough? Lucky for me, I'm in the habit of still using cash rather than the debit card.

TV: Free Agents, Up All Night

Both of these shows strike me as being influenced by 30 Rock in their look and style of workplace comedies. I think Free Agents works better, however, precisely because it does not strive to replicate 30 Rock's tone. Free Agents is actually trying to do a real adult comedy. I don't know if it will ultimately work, but it might turn into something special and more mature than what is regularly on TV. Azaria and Hahn are both characters who have lived and dealt with some shit in their lives. It might be refreshing to watch a comedy/dramady in this tone.

Up All Night wasn't really working for me. Christina Applegate's character is too perfect. Liz Lemon works because of her colossal incompetence in her personal life is masked by her somewhat competent (in relation to her coworkers) work life. Up All Night, our two main characters are too "good," too put together. The best moments were seeing Maya Rudolf fly off the handle. The main stuff, not so good. A tiny, winy, bit smug, if you ask me.
They Have A Point

Unpaid interns sue Fox Searchlight.

If the studios (and prod companies and agencies, etc) started paying for interns...well...there would be a lot fewer interns and most of the work would just get done by already overworked assistants. There is a structural problem with the bottom of the entertainment industry - the qualified are often massively underpaid, but it is tough to find the qualified amongst the massive number of unqualified people who want these jobs. Internships basically provide a compromise.

Still, I'll bet it's easier to get an unpaid internship that transitions somehow into a job one day than getting a union gig.

Film: Moneyball, Thor

Along with Drive, I think Moneyball is one of the best movies of the year. They do an incredible job with flashbacks - a normally inelegant device if you ask me - but it works perfectly in this character study. I see similarities in the three Sorkin projects - Charlie Wilson's War, The Social Network, and Moneyball. All three are character studies of incredible successful people driven by elusive personal demons. I thought Moneyball was a better film than social network. Less preening dialog. More emotional. Less movie of the week structure.

Thor was watchable, but not good. It always amazes me how these awesome fighting machines fail to master the one thing that may give them victory: aim.
Thoughts On Medical Care

My grandfather used to pay for his own medical care out of his pocket. He didn't have insurance because he didn't need it. Medical costs were payable as they came up, like buying or fixing a car.

Contrast that with the present - it would be crazy to not have health insurance today. Small problems can end up being massively costly and medical bills are one of the most common reasons for personal bankruptcy. Medical insurance and costs are way higher than they used to be - both in absolute terms and percentage of income terms.

But consider this: medical care is a lot better. I don't know the numbers, but it is clear both long and short term care is better and life expectancy is longer. Drugs are better. Collective wisdom is more. There must be a corresponding cost increases for increased performance. Patients must on some level, somehow, pay for these improvements. No would would opt going back 50 years to get more affordable and shittier healthcare if they could. And this is highlighted even more when you get sick or need the care. You want answers and the right treatment. You don't want the Doc from Deadwood amazed at how you survived for 10 minutes with a bullet in your brain.

So why do we complain about it so? Why is it universally decried as a "crisis?" We pay a whole lot more for phone service (especially if you include internet) than Americans did 50 years ago, but we recognize the tremendous benefits to having a cell phone and the internet.

Is it possible that modern healthcare isn't a crisis at all and instead actually a miracle?

UPDATE: That is not to say the medical insurance system works as best it could. The fundamental problem is still cost. Some vital treatments are costly - essentially unaffordable to people. How do we handle this? We try to spread out the cost to as many people as possible in an insurance pool. But this means one of two things - people get to opt into this insurance pool or we force people to join the insurance pool. From there, all sorts of other problems arise - philosophical, financial, etc - who pays for uninsured if it is an opt-in system? What is the best way to administer an opt-in system? Via employers? Why? Is it constitutional to force everyone to buy health insurance? Is it a public good? Do we break it into regional health care? Should I, as a healthy Californian, be obligated to pay the gigantic health costs for people in Louisiana who eat like shit for their entire lives? Should I, as a young, not wealthy person, be expected to pay equal premiums to older couples with kids and a nice house and all sorts of material wealth? Difficult question as to how and administer the costs of the miracles of medical care.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Film: X-Men, First Class

Other than Batman, I think X-Men is the best superhero series. The fundamental conflict between Magneto and Professor X forever yields a watchable conflict. And actually, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbinder are both pretty damn good in the film. The worst parts of the movie are when the X-Men start using their powers fully. The emotional stuff is actually quite good. Rose Byrne - watchable! The big action was the worst part.
What's Wrong with The Buffett Rule?

McArdle weighs in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Feast

Of reading about the cinema. I just stumbled upon this website. I imagine I could waste days on it.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Film: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Spoiler alert. There is a subgenre of films that explore real-life monsters. Their angle tends to be - let's look at it from the awful person's perspective. Monster with Charlize Theron looks at a serial killer. Paradise Now looks at Hamas terrorists. Elephant looks at school shooters. For a short time, these seemed like interesting projects. I think what the filmmakers tend to discover about their subjects - they simply aren't very interesting characters. This may be the big secret about terrorists and serial killers and other such heinous creatures - that at their core - they just might be the most petty and small amongst us and who barely warrant any attention whatsoever. So, this is why Lynne Ramsay's first movie in ages feels totally unfresh and kinda unnecessary. The movie lacks the visual audacity of her other films and builds to this big reveal of the kid being a school mass murderer. I didn't know this going in. But not knowing or knowing, the movie is still very middle-of-the-road and pretty boring - both thematically and visually. My theory of what she was trying to get at - it was a story about a mother who doesn't love her child and only comes to love him once he's become this monster. If that sounds interesting to you, maybe check out the movie.

Ramsay's Ratcatcher justifiably drew comparisons to Malick's Badlands - both incredibly mature and assured first works. And like Malick, has been going downhill ever since. I wonder if she'll ever make a good movie again. It would not surprise me if she didn't.
Because They Aren't Connected

It’s one thing to give workers power to negotiate above-market wages through collective bargaining–hey, let them squeeze the bosses for all the bosses can bear. It’s another thing when they squeeze more than the bosses can bear, the bosses go broke, and ordinary citizens, many poorer than UAW members, have to make up the difference.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Recently enacted federal banking regulations restrict previously profitable practices by banks such as big overdraft fees and jacking up credit card interest rates for customers who are late on a payment. And earlier this summer, efforts by the banking industry to block a cap on debit card swipe fees failed. The fees banks charge grocery stores, restaurants, big box stores and other businesses every time they swipe a customer’s debit card will drop from about 45 cents a swipe to 12 cent swipes. That change, set to go into effect on Oct. 1, adds up to a loss of revenue of billions of dollars for the nation’s banks.
The banks’ loss is your loss. The banks need to make up that loss of revenue somewhere and many banks have plans to recover it up by hitting you with new fees: checking account maintenance fees, ATM fees, debit card use fees.
I've been getting cheap banking for years from other people's stupidity. I liked it that way.
On Education

Interesting ideas.
People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”
The thing about failure - is really isn't that big a deal. You learn to shrug it off. And not let it happen again. I learned all these kind of lessons playing sports, not from school or anywhere else.
Alex Smith

Boy, the Niners had a real chance today to steal one from the Cowboys. They couldn't catch a break, the Cowboys made a few clutch plays, and it is very difficult to win with Alex Smith as your quarterback.

He is the definition of a loser. Not as a bad person, but as a player. He plays not to lose rather than to win. He inspires no confidence in his team. He has no confidence in himself. He does not see plays early enough. He does all the little things one needs to do in order to lose the game. He isn't like Favre or Romo, who are self destructive cowboys who save their team occasionally and usually make crucial mistakes in big moments. I was hoping for one of those Romo moments today. But see, guys like Romo are more likely to make mistakes when they feel pressure. Alex Smith puts no pressure on the other team.

The crucial mistakes I saw today were taking big second down sacks. There was a play towards the end of the game, a screen pass, that was busted the moment they hiked the ball. The Cowboys totally read it. It took Smith several beats to realize the play was busted and by then, he took a sack. The Niners can't make first downs on 3rd and 10 or more. Few teams can. Smith took another sack on an earlier drive on 2nd down, when a Cowboy came in totally unblocked. That play wasn't technically his fault, but still, the worst thing he can do in those situations is take a sack like that on 2nd down. I don't taking a sack on 3rd down if no one is covered. But on 2nd down, you don't put yourself into position to win the game. Those were key possessions. The Niners had the lead. They needed to hold the lead. They couldn't.

I've never quite understood why capital gains are taxed at a lower rate. Plus, even if you objected to this idea, we could still stagger the capital gains rate like we stagger income. I think the idea here is to close the Buffett loophole for institutional investors.

If I were designing the "fairest" tax system based on my own income experiences, I would lower income tax and increase capital gains tax...after all...I worked for the income and just sat on my ass for the capital gains.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Film: The Guard

Well, the streak ends. I always push my luck. I thought The Guard would be good. It was playing at the SM Laemmle. All signs were pointing towards it being enjoyable. There were some okay moments, but it really is a beginner film for the filmmaker. Only about 20% of the jokes hit.

People who we often consider lucky are more relaxed and open to what's going on around them. They're not focused on a single task, blocking out everything else so much that they miss something important and unexpected. What this experiment demonstrates is that luck may not so much be luck, but whether or not our mindset leaves us open to opportunities we would otherwise miss because we're so absolutely sure of what we want.

Film: Drive

At the risk of overstating it, I fail to see how Drive isn't the best film of the year. I was in a fugue state after watching it. It, along with In Bruges, are the two best small crime movies since the 1990s heydey of early Tarantino, the Elmore Leonard trilogy, Hard Eight, The Usual Suspects, etc. Unless I'm totally forgetting something (oops. I did forget Collateral). Do not say The Town or I will come stomp your head. One has to go all the way back to Thief to imagine a more stylish, more austere, more poetic, tight crime movie. It is not as good as Thief. But it can be in the same discussion. The problem with the film, as I see it, is that it doesn't have the great 3rd act of Thief. And perhaps you want to say something against the level or style of violence, which is usually jarring. Also, Gosling's character is more a mythological creature than an actual person and there is an emotional distance one feels for his mission toward the end. But fuck if the movie isn't cool. I mean, I'm a Melville fan, and those movies don't work perfectly all the way through, and I'd put this up with any of his films. Los Angeles is freaking awesome in this movie. I was ready to like the movie, and I ended up really, really liking it. In some ways I'm blown away. This is easily the best movie Gosling's ever been in. So consider the compliments I've laid on the film - best movie this year (so far), best movie Gosling (our best young actor since Heath Ledger is dead) has done, and a movie that can be put into a discussion with Thief. The movie won't be for everyone, that is for sure, but if you like neo-noir, if you like Thief, if you like Melville, if you like Gosling, if you like Point Blank, Donald Westlake, these types of things interest you, finally, after a long time, there is a movie to watch.

UPDATE: The Atlantic reviews Drive - and I must say - I agree. I think it he sums it up well here:
Now and then, though, you see a film that jumps off the spectrum altogether, one that reminds you that novel possibilities exist even within the most well-worn cinematic conventions. In the most extreme cases—Annie Hall, say, or Star Wars or Pulp Fiction—such a movie possesses enough gravity to realign the spectrum altogether. And while Drive, the stunning Hollywood debut of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, is unlikely to have such an impact (it is a triumph of execution more than formula), it is nonetheless a minor revelation.

TV: Breaking Bad. Finished season 3. WOW. Show is awesome. Comparisons to Sopranos are now fair game.

I am unusually enthusiastic about the movies and shows I've been watching recently. I'm on a hot streak. Breaking Bad, Louie, Party Down, Warrior, Drive, Contagion, My Idiot Brother, The Debt, Crazy/Stupid/Love. There hasn't been a miss in the group. At worst, Contagion just merely met my expectations and My Idiot Brother wasn't good, but at least surprised me a bit. The Debt was mediocre, but I don't regret seeing it. I support the Israel-gets-revenge subgenre of thrillers. I suppose I left out Entourage as a blip on the screen, but that's like including Jersey Shore, which doesn't really count.

...forget the sadness of the post re: unemployed person in The Atlantic. I was just walking home from the coffee shop where I write and saw an overweight hispanic lady sleeping in her car. I sometimes see people like this in my neighborhood. Basically, they are homeless folks in cars. A smidge above the social stratum of crazy folks who are on the streets. They sleep in my neighborhood because it is a peaceful place where there is lots of parking and the cops won't bug them.

I wonder what people like them would think about the piece in the Atlantic? Why are we, as a society, supposed to feel awful about a journalist who worked for 25 years, got laid off, and can't find another job? The only difference between he and the homeless person sleeping in their car is that he had a whole shitpile of more opportunities and talent. The person sleeping in the car probably didn't even dream of going to college - and their best hopes lie in the possibility of getting stable work in a restaurant or house cleaning or their husband can find stable work in contracting. I am making all sorts of assumptions here, obviously, but I live in LA and have some interaction with the lower-middle class hispanics. To the person sleeping in the car, the journalist's life must look glamorous, the way I might view the life of a former professional athlete or movie star.

We don't feel sorry for the pro athlete whose career fell short or the actor who didn't live up to potential. What obligation do we have - as a society - to make sure upper middle class people get to stay upper middle class. I'm not sure any. Sad as it is to say.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kindness Pledge

I suppose this is easy for me to say over my blog, but I wouldn't sign it. Nor abide by it, even if I did sign it. Kindness is no friend to intellectual advancement, which is what college's ought to be in the business of...

...maybe they ought to have an integrity pledge instead. I'd sign that.

From Postrel:

Kindness isn’t a public or intellectual virtue, but a personal one. It is a form of love. Kindness seeks, above all, to avoid hurt. Criticism -- even objective, impersonal, well- intended, constructive criticism -- isn’t kind. Criticism hurts people’s feelings, and it hurts most when the recipient realizes it’s accurate. Treating “kindness” as the way to civil discourse doesn’t show students how to argue with accuracy and respect. It teaches them instead to neither give criticism nor tolerate it.
The Worst

A tale of the unemployed.

This is one of the subtly scariest articles I've read in a long time. I imagine one of the long term effects of the "Great Recession" will be scrimping and saving and not taking on too many financial obligations. That means children for a lot of people - fewer. Watch the birthrate.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Drum Is Correct

"Did they think they were voting for Shaft?" Maher and Moore wish they had, and Limbaugh thinks they did. The difference is that Limbaugh doesn't seem capable of discerning between Obama and the black monsters of his own fevered imagination, while Maher and Moore are depressed that Obama doesn't embody the stereotype.

What Limbaugh, Moore and Maher all have in common is a common, reductive expectation of what a "black man" is supposed to be—aggressive, belligerent, intimidating—and Obama doesn't fit the bill.

Fox News Turns Sane


Not corruption, just idiocy and ideology.

The problem with Solyndra is not George Kaiser. It's the whole concept behind a program that is supposed to enable politically favored technologies, using loan guarantees that look cheap when they're issued, and end up costing us half a billion dollars because we rushed the due diligence to make sure top officials got a good photo op. As I wrote the other day, "When banks engage in this sort of behavior, we call it a bubble, and try to figure out how to fix things so they won't do it again. When government agencies do this, we call it a weekday."
Seems Sort of Corrupt

But Republicans would do worse, right?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


TV: Entourage - the final 2 or 3 episodes; Breaking Bad Season 3, ep.1-5

Might be the perfect contrast - Entourage is clearly the worst show on television and Breaking Bad has at least a decent claim at being the best show on television. My order of existing shows: Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, 30 Rock/Parks and Rec/Louie (all tied for 3rd for different reasons), Justified. I can't think of any others worth mentioning...I suppose I ought to mention Mad Men, but I don't watch it anymore.

Entourage is a shallow, soulless, pointless examination of what it means to be a guy in in the entertainment business, except for every guy in the entertainment business fucking hates the show. I've already wasted too many letters on the show.

Breaking Bad is awesome. It is a good example of how you are able to do challenging things only once you've built up enough goodwill from your audience. In the beginning of season 3 Jesse Pinkman does nothing but spend time grieving his girlfriend. I found it very moving. A similar plot point was used in The Killing in the first season with the Rosie Larsen parents grieving for the entire first half of the series. It works in Breaking Bad because we've spent so much time for Jesse and seen him fail in so many pursuits and then have his one glimmer of hope snatched away from him - and partially from his own doing. We are moved by him calling her cell phone and listening to her voice message. On the flipside, in The Killing, we are basically introduced to these characters as grievers. We have no history with them. We cannot feel for them anymore than we feel for a person on the news who lost someone to a victim of a crime. There is no tragedy for the audience. It is awful story telling. This is why The Killing is a horrible show and Breaking Bad is a great show. It is the difference between how Aaron Rodgers does a quick slant for 8 yards on first and 10 vs. Alex Smith doing a quick slant for 8 yards on 3rd and 10. One is a great play. The other is a useless play. But they are the same play.
All True

Obama might be getting a bad rap for the recession, but hey, so did Herbert Hoover and you don't see Democrats rushing to his defense.

She's got crazy eyes and crazy positions. I hope she leaves the race sooner rather than later. I don't like crazy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Fashion line introduced at Target crashes their website.

I'm guessing this helped:
Actress Jessica Alba tweeted that she "dreamt about the Missoni 4 Target bike last night" and that she hoped her husband was "going to get it 4 me?!?" Singer Jessica Simpson retweeted Alba, saying that she wanted the bike too: "So cute!"
Good to see someone still knows how to conduct business. And there is still money to be made.

Vlad Putin, Action Hero

The guy seems to be competing for the most-interesting man in the world commercial spot.

Films: Contagion and Warrior

Both films were good. Neither was great. Contagion was a strange one. Very even movie. Strangely unemotional for the most part and the type of movie where you don't really have anything to root against - making the victories not seem as great. Did some interesting cuts in storytelling to show how they made progress against the virus.

Warrior in some ways the opposite. Do really good job of creating insurmountable odds and melodramatic moments. Very cliched movie, but also demonstrates why many cliches work and continue to work. Fighting scenes were great - although for my money - nothing quite topped the very first one. I did shout and groan at the screen a few times, which is always a good sign.

I might've suffered a bit from overexpectations in both movies since I'd heard good things.

Megan McArdle slams Obama's Stimulus 2.0.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Technology is not neutral. This is my fundamental objection to Facebook and Internet dating. It isn't so much that I am certain they are harmful. Obviously, I cannot say. They may be useful to some people. But I object mostly to the herd acceptance of these technologies and the idea they are not impactful above and beyond their stated utility.

Think about cars. The advent of the car did a whole lot more than simply make it easier to get around. It impacted the way cities were designed, it impacted the air we breathe, it changed geo-politics and the importance of oil. Nearly my entire life is somewhat the way it is because of the advent of the automobile. But none of these things were in the minds of the early adopters of the automobile - and certainly they could not predict or understand the impact of the technology on society.

It is a pointless discussion to think about whether we could turn back the clock on car technology. For the record, I love cars and car culture. Probably one of the main reasons I've never left California. Los Angeles is a city built around the automobile. California is a car state. Most American's have five major rites of passage towards full adulthood.

1. Driving
2. Moving away from home
3. Getting a job/career
4. Getting married
5. Having kids

My point is these things matter. Our technologies reflect our values. Cars represent freedom. They also represent excess. Now think about internet dating and facebook. What do they suggest about our values? The point of internet dating is to find a spouse. It is the stated goal. Some people use the system to get laid, or to avoid loneliness, but I think that is a very small minority. Sure, you aren't marrying every coffee date, but all of it is a form of practice and habit-creation to eventually meet the goal of finding a spouse.

Think about a society of arranged marriages and what it says about their values. It says, family comes before individuals. It says, young folks are not able to make decisions for themselves and that families are wiser. I imagine it also protects the virtues (see virginity) of young women and somewhat implies a lower-status for women, etc.

Now what does it say about a society who meets strangers over the internet to date? Is it society simply harnessing technology to make more efficient the old business of matchmaking? Or is it the popularization of the creepy desperation of love classifieds? Is it reflective of a collective delusion about computers helping us find a digital utopia?

Or does it reflect a massive, system-wide failure of men and women to adopt to changing gender roles? Or are we ushering in a new, better way for male and female relationships to blossom?

I suppose time will tell. I am wary.
Good Argument

On why focusing on long run business investing might be the key to economic recovery (vs. short term stimulus).
Ironies Abound

Bank of America to slash 30,000 jobs. Whether or not this is a healthy move, I often hear pundits on the left talking about banks needing to "take a haircut" on the mortgage/financial crisis. I just hope they are aware what it means for a bank to "take a haircut" - losses of jobs and stock prices.

Also, it got me thinking about jobs and national defense. The Left wants to cut defense spending, but in a way, isn't defense spending also just a big job creation machine? Everyone agrees WW2 and the draft is what eventually got us out of the Great Depression. It just seems like if we were to cut off defense spending the result would be higher unemployment.

These might be the right things to do, but they surely are not obvious.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Beauty In Sport

This is something I think about from time to time.

There are times during sports when I get an impulse to try things. I don't have time to analyze them in the moment, but when I think about them afterwards, they aren't always the most pragmatic or obvious or even smart choices. Often, they are motivated by a sense of wonder or beauty or a sort of - what if I could pull this off? Once, in soccer I get double teamed and it offended me and I tried to take on two defenders at once. If I thought about it, it was a dumb move. If I'm doubled, someone else is open. But what I discovered in trying it, was that the defenders ended up picking one another and actually creating an opening between them and I got past them. It was awesome and unexpected and I sometimes use the same move/idea today.

I now work in a creative field and to this day I believe my earliest creative training was in sports.

Here is one way to think about the total insanity of real estate prices:

Today, I was talking to my dad about home ownership. When my parents bought their house -the house they still live in today - the total amount they paid was roughly double the combination of their two salaries at the time. These are all pretend numbers, but that is like saying their combined salary was $100,000 and the house they bought cost $200,000. My dad couldn't remember exactly, it might have been a little more than double, so say $250,000 just to be generous to what we know to be inflated current prices.

Now, today, if you make over $200,000, that puts you basically in the upper 10% of income earners - the people Obama calls "the rich." Based on the real estate price to salary ratio of my parents time, ie pre-total insanity, these folks could roughly afford a $500,000 house. Here are some houses that cost $500,000 in Los Angeles. Not what I would call rich.

Let me think about the numbers here...

$500,000 house putting down 20% with a 30 year fixed. Nifty google mortgage advisor tells me the following:

You need $100,000 down and with a $400,000 mortgage, your monthly rate is $1,880.

Let me do some more math...a couple with a take home of $200,000 probably ends up with $100,000 after taxes...and (12*1880=22,560), so that amounts to about 1/4 of their income going to the home, which is probably a pretty wise and thrifty ratio leaving you enough money for other expenses and having kids. Plus, somewhere along the line, the couple needs to have amassed $100,000 which is no easy feat without familial assistance.

Now, all this assumes a couple makes $200,000 a year combined. I know exactly NO couples who make that much money who are looking at buying their first house. Someone making that much dough in their 30s is doing incredibly well. Probably a lawyer or a finance person or an MBA or doing well in entertainment. This is not a model for average folks - and when I say average - I'm saying college-educated, used to upper-middle-class kind of stuff, folks. This doesn't even begin to touch upon lower middle class wage earners or folks struck by poverty.

What is a median salary for a college educated person in LA in their 30s? I don't know. Maybe $60,000? Seems pretty good to me, especially in this economy. Two people with two decent jobs, you'd probably be happy making $120,000 combined. That is roughly what a doctor in residency or a just-getting-started Creative Executive or Agent or Staff Writer in TV probably makes per year. Using my earlier math - this couple can afford a $300,000 house. I don't where you can a real house in LA for $300,000. Probably a condo, if that. Otherwise, you're up north in Calabasas or out in the Inland Empire or San Gabriel. Not exactly primo locations for well-to-do professionals wanting to raise kids.

What is my point here? Housing prices need to drop or wise folks will continue to rent. So long as housing prices stay artificially high because of insanely low interest rates, the mortgage tax deduction, and the banks sitting on foreclosed properties, housing will remain a bad investment for first time buyers. Furthermore, it will incentivize ponzi-scheme behavior that got us into the crisis - people leveraging their existing houses into buying other houses.

Who buys 1 million dollar homes in LA? I doubt many are well-to-do professionals who scrimped and saved $200,000 and who make $400,000 per year combined. There are very few of these type of people. I imagine it must be people who are taking out money against their existing home and throwing it into another home. Or people with lots of cash lying around. Or people who can't afford a $1 million dollar home.

Very curious.

If the Republicans were smart, I think they could win the 2012 Presidential election. But I don't think they are smart.
Can't Read This Link, But...

A good article regarding fear in the markets and the long term prospects of economic growth.

Basic point: growth in the US was down to 2% even during the Bush Admin and the housing boom, suggesting the basic idea of 3% natural economic growth in the developed world hasn't been and won't be happening for a long time. Someone is going to need to take losses: taxpayers, recipients of public services (poor people), equity investors (stockholders), domestic debtors (homeowners, student loans), bondholders, foreign creditors. Politicians will decide who...

Friday, September 09, 2011


It strikes me all the talk of stimulus, spending, cutting taxes, blah, blah, blah is all basically a choice of how best re-arrange debt. This basically leaves you with bad and worse choices. I suppose it is a bit similar to personal finance if you start to consider more complex investments like education and businesses as opposed to just mortgage and credit cards, which are pretty easy to evaluate.

We're getting about $8 billion in new spending stimulus over the first year after we enact the refinance program. But to get that stimulus, we're decreasing wealth by $13-$15 billion. The spending multiplier needs to be more than half again as big as the wealth multiplier for this to provide net stimulus.
It's important to consider the costs of stimulus...and that government spending almost always can be understand as a wealth transfer.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Blogging Format

So it looks like I inadvertently am changing my blogging format. I'm too damn lazy to figure out to exactly recover the old way and plus, maybe it is time for a change. I'd been meaning to update my blog-roll anyway. This new format allows for more customization, but also forces you into using Google-shit, like losing Sitemeter and replacing with Google-analytics. Big surprise. I was perfectly happy with Sitemeter counting my visits. It game me inspiration each day to see 10-20 visitors and kept me writing. To this day, I have never made a penny from my blog and don't imagine I ever will. This is what Google-analytics is tries to accomplish. That said, if Google wants to give me money, I'd take it. It is frustrating to lose the Sitemeter. Perhaps I will try to recover it. I was somewhere around 67,000 lifetime views, which I thought was pretty damn cool. I know 50,000 is a great number for a youtube video and it took my nearly 8 years to accumulate what some people make in hits in one day. But somehow, that doesn't make me any less proud of the total.

Sounds like a good read.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


A court in France has ordered a 51-year-old man to pay his ex-wife nearly $15,000 in damages after she sued him over lack of sex during their 21 year marriage. The fine was under an article in the French civil code stating married couples must live a “shared communal life.” The woman actually took her ex-husband back to court over the issue two years after they divorced. “A sexual relationship between husband and wife is the expression of affection they have for each other, and in this case it was absent,” the judge ruled. “By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other.”

I'm not sure what the takeaway from this is.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Film: The Debt

I like these kind of movies generally...moral/political thrillers. This one was only mediocre. One of the problems of the film is the morality was pretty clear cut. Basically, I didn't find much tension in the two central questions of the film (spoiler alert) - 1) Should Israeli kill or arrest Nazis? and 2) Should anyone lie about what they did? Obviously I have no problem with Israel arresting or killing Nazis for their crimes. I think this question is pretty well resolved. As for lying...yeah...I feel like this question is pretty well resolved, too. Lying is bad.

TV: Married with Children Pilot

My dream after my screenwriting days are over is to work on a 3-camera sitcom like Married with Children or Seinfeld. I really enjoy the artifice of the 3 camera set up.

Film: Talking Funny

Not a film really, but an HBO special with Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Louie C.K., and Chris Rock. Rare you get to see such a top tier line up of folks talk about their craft. In particular, Seinfeld and Chris Rock, who are basically living legends.
Me Likey


Blogger is forced me to adjust my template. Annoying. Will take some time to recover and recreate my old links. Standby.

I've never been any good at a side hustle, but always am impressed with people who do.

Monday, September 05, 2011

I'm Listening

Huntsman's tax plan: no deductions.

I had this idea years ago.

If this becomes a real thing, I'm going to be crushed I didn't start building it years ago.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Stimulus proposals.

A solar firm goes bust and taxpayers may be responsible for over $500 million in loans.

Sort of makes you wonder whether "funding" green energy is such a good idea. Put it this way - you can see why a liberal government would fund such a project. Ideally, it brings all the right things together - puts people to work building a technology that will yield long term environmental results. Problem is: it doesn't work. They can't make it profitable. And arguably, the government assistance only enables them to be bigger failures and pushes the cost onto the taxpayers.

The alternative, of course, would be the government giving me $500 million in loans and I'd start a movie studio and put tons of people to work and I'm guessing I could at least break even, if not make a profit. I know this sounds silly and doesn't seem to help the world, but at least people would be working, the taxpayers would not lose any money, and there would be some good movies to see.

I dunno. I know we need to throw spaghetti against the wall to make R&D progress, but it kinda sorta feels like the government picks winners and losers by the way the press and ideology fits into the narrative and who is connected with who rather than any real sense of whether the project is viable.
Founders Are Better CEOs

Cool article on CEOs.

Outsider, non-founder CEOs are often overvalued because many corporate boards think the answer to their problems is a superstar CEO with an outsized reputation. This leads them to overpay for people who are good at creating outsized reputations through networking, interviewing, and taking credit for other peoples' achievements--all bad indicators of future success.

Rakesh Khurana has amply shown how this delusion of the charismatic savior creates a dysfunctional market for CEOs, allowing the small number of existing public-company CEOs to demand and receive extravagant compensation. The myth of the generalist CEO is bolstered by the many fawning media portrayals where CEOs say that their key jobs are understanding, hiring, and motivating people--leading board members to believe that you can run a technology company without knowing anything about technology.

Yep. It applies to government as well. I have nothing but contempt for this form of corporate cronyism. These are the worst people in the world after Al Queda and the Taliban.
Political Theory

I'm not a political theorist. But if I were one, I'd be thinking about theories that focus on the strengthening/creation of a middle class.

Rawls focuses on political legitimacy arising from whether a society helps improve the relative positions of the least-well-off. (Liberal)

Nozick focuses on political legitimacy of transactions and the process by which goods are acquired. (Libertarian)

I suspect keeping and maintaining a large middle class is the key to preserving democracy and individual rights. It is important for a society to largely be comprised of self-succifient citizens. Our society is growing too stratified. The middle class is hollowing out. If roughly 47% of American households do not pay taxes, we have essentially created an underclass. We risk becoming a society of patrons and patronage, whereby the rich essentially "buy off" the poor by giving them things life welfare and medical care and the basic necessities, but not access to the tools of real wealth-creation such as home ownership and affordable education.

I need to think about this more...

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Bank of America

Why is Bank of America the whipping boy of the media and government and the stock market for it's exposure to the faulty mortgages?

Compared with Bank of America, Wells Fargo has more exposure to real estate and less capital. The bank classifies about 19 percent of its residential mortgage loans as either delinquent or nonperforming, a number similar to that of Bank of America. Wells Fargo says it's fine, but where have we heard that before?

Of all the big American banks, JPMorgan Chase, perhaps surprisingly, has the highest proportion of bad mortgages, at about 24 percent, according to Citigroup is lowest at less than 14 percent. But JPMorgan's balance sheet is more solid than that of any of the country's other megabanks.

Explain why BofA is under such crazy scrutiny and the others get a pass.